The Best YA Books You Haven't Read

Here it is, the spectacular January 21st project celebrating unsung YA books! Special thanks to Yannabe for this initiative. As per her suggestion, I’ve used my LibraryThing account to hone in on which books are underappreciated. The following are books that I gave a four or five star rating (and I rate tough), but that fewer than 500 folks own in LibraryThing.

  1. I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin – I honestly cannot believe that less than 100 people own this book on LibraryThing. This book may ring a bell with those who know me. That’s because, not only is it the best book about teenage pregnancy that I’ve ever read, but it’s one of the best YA books I’ve ever read, period. I’m a YA Librarian, and I recently ordered a copy of this book for my library. It hasn’t stayed on the shelf since it arrived.
  2. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan – This book is my newest literary obsession. If you want the short version, it’s a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. But it also probes the deep question of whether living in the “real world” is worth all the pain that goes with it and doesn’t shy away from the violent, sexual, and bizarre undertones of fairy tales.  This book is not for the faint of heart, but the hope woven into the wretchedness offers enough relief to make the book not only bearable (no pun intended), but beautiful.
  3. The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan – This book was the first, and remains the best, novel in verse I’ve ever read. It follows the interconnected stories of several high-school classmates, and I stayed up all night even though I had a migraine to finish it. That ought to say enough.
  4. Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy – This is one of those YA books I actually read when I was an adolescent. I started it three times and was put off by the main character’s emotional disconnect and the grittiness of the writing. I finally finished it when I decided to read it aloud to my younger sister. Part ghost-story, part story about a girl finding connection again, don’t let the early-pages description of vomit put you off from finishing it.
  5. The Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins – An honest, heartbreaking look at sisterly devotion and first love, this book should be on far more bookshelves. I’m glad I have it on mine.
  6. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn – There was nary a girl in the 80s who didn’t stay up all night terrified by this book. It’s time for this ghost-story-of-all-ghost-stories to be enjoyed by a new generation.
  7. Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames – OK, so probably very few folks own this book nowadays because it’s out of print. Which is a darn shame, because it somehow manages to seamlessly blend clones, futuristic computers (in the 90s!!), and the Holocaust for a whole lot of creepiness and thought provocation.
  8. A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – A sensitive look at adolescence, synesthesia, friendship, fitting in, and cat ownership. Especially the last one. Kitty lovers, be prepared to melt.
  9. Catch by Will Leitch – If you’re like most females, you won’t love Tim and his lecherous nature when you first start reading this. By the time his heart is broken, he’s a lot more likeable. A first love story with a twist and a bit of scandal (an older woman), but not a bit trashy.
  10. M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbets – A modern-day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac with a gay and Internet-ty twist, this is both a fun and sweet read.

Other honorable mentions: Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn, All Alone in the Universe by Lynn Rae Perkins, Look for me by Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn (Yes, there WAS vampire romance before Twilight), Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan, One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin, and  Letters from the Inside by John Marsden.

You can read the uber-list compiled by Yannabe here.

What are you waiting for? Get thee to the teen section of your local library or bookstore now — and give these unsung books the love (and readership) they deserve.